Taking the Lead

New prof is first research director of Butler leadership center

Ellen Ernst Kossek only recently arrived in West Lafayette, but she already seems very much at home in her office in Rawls Hall. In January, she was named the Basil S. Turner Professor of Management and appointed inaugural research director of Purdue's Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence.

She comes to Purdue after 25 years at Michigan State University. In 2009 she was named a University Distinguished Professor, one of MSU's highest faculty titles, in the School of Human Resources and Labor and Industrial Relations.

Ellen Kossek

Ellen Ernst Kossek (Photo by Mark Simons)

Why would a revered professor at MSU who was respected worldwide for her pioneering work-life-family research decide to relocate? Kossek readily cites how Purdue enticed her to make the move.

“I was impressed with Beverly Davenport Sypher in the provost’s office, Dean Chris Earley, and faculty working on organizational behavior and human resources issues,” she says. “Coming from a social science department, I appreciate that human resources and talent management are part of the business school. I believe they should be part of the management mainstream. And, personally, the timing was right to make a change. Our youngest of four children had just started college.”

Kossek is also associate director of the Center for Work-Family Stress, Safety and Health (CWFSSH), which is part of the Work, Family and Health Network. Primary funders of CWFSSH include the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Her research with various industries over seven years focuses on how changes in the work environment can improve the health of workers while benefiting organizations. She and CWFSSH's director, Leslie Hammer of Portland State University, operate a virtual center that designs, monitors and evaluates innovative workplace change efforts to improve work-life relationships.

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